Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Swearing Saves Horse Racing

Usually it is something in a newspaper article that causes me to take to posting a blog. It started with obituaries, but has since expanded greatly to anything in a newspaper. I don't think I've ever been motivated by a Tweet, and certainly not a video Tweet. Until now.

I don't know how to link to the video directly, but if you go to @joedrape, or @toddschrupp on Twitter you will easily find the video, even easier at Todd's site because it is a pinned Tweet, so it appears at the top of all the Tweets. Todd picked it up from @losalracing. (Los Alamos racing)

Todd describes the video as an example of what anyone who goes to the track knows when they are watching a race being televised live on the screen: there is always one person who is louder that all the other patrons, no matter how few are watching the race.

The patrons in the video can all be assumed to have a financial stake in the race to some degree. The black fellow on the right, who is clearly the loudest of those watching the screen, and who is pounding his hand with a rolled up Racing Form as if he is hitting the horse like the jockey is hitting the horse with the whip, is rooting the loudest and hardest, and who, when the race is over and he obviously didn't win, has some unkind things to say before walking away in frustration.

A closer look at the video shows that the patron in the checkered shirt is applying what all horse players will recognize as body english in an attempt to make his horse pull ahead of the others and win the bet for him. Tilt your viewing angle and you can make it appear that you've won. This is exactly the look bowlers have as they try and redirect the ball they just bowled into a better part of the alley so as to strike the desired pins. Body english at the bowling alley or the racetrack exerts no gravitational force on the outcome, but it does make you feel good if the outcome does go your way.

I know of one fellow who was asked by his constant betting buddy why didn't he yell at the horses and jockeys as the race was being run? His reply was simple. "Because they can't hear me."

There is a story in today's weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal that basically says cursing can be good for you. The front page teaser to the story on C3 goes: 'Yes, dammit, a little swearing can be surprisingly beneficial.'

In 'Gone with the Wind,' Clark Gable, as Rheet Butler, says what instantly become the best movie line to date, when he tells Vivian Lee's Scarlett that he doesn't "give a damn" at the close of  the film. Thinking of that example, and the smirk on Rhett's face, you'd have to agree that a little 1939 swearing did make Rhett feel a lot better. The audience certainly liked it as well.

'Gone with the Wind 'is not mentioned in the article which is really an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Dr. Emma Byrne, 'Swearing Is Good for You' to be published on January 23rd by W.W. Norton.

Dr. Byrne has some incredibly delightful nuggets in her essay, all the more delightful because her essay is published the day after President Trump is said to have categorized some countries as "shitholes." Dr, Byrne's book should be the one flying off the shelves when it is published.

Consider these excerpts from the essay:

"...swearing eases pain, it would seem to work through our emotions, heightening confidence, increasing aggression, and making us more resilient."

"swearing acts as an analgesic."

"It is an escalation signal to give someone space before violence ensuses."

Dr. Bryne's essay has no examples of people at he racetrack. But watch the video again and see how the loudest person is left alone, especially after his diatribe at the result, which clearly didn't go in his favor.

And my god, what about the statements about swearing making us more resilient and acting as an analgesic?

All this helps explain why so many of us goddamn horseplayers keep coming back to the scene of their last defeat. We may not be showing up at the track in person in numbers like we used to, but Dr. Bryne helps explain why you can't seem to get rid of us and why there is still horse racing, which logically, makes no sense whatsoever.


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